TÊTE-À-TÊTE

Conversation with Visual Merchandiser Manager Juffri Jeffri

A fashion design graduate from LASALLE College of the Arts, Juffri started off his career with PEDRO seven years ago when the brand launched in Cambodia and FAM got the chance to speak with him on this. Read on to find out more about his journey with the brand well as hear his take on the fashion scene there.

DANIELA MONASTERIOS TAN, 26 OCTOBER 2021

DANIELA MONASTERIOS TAN,
26 OCTOBER 2021

PD PD MOBILE


While Southeast Asia has been the manufacturing centre for international brands for decades, the regions’ creative and commercial fashion landscapes are not often the focus of attention. The various fashion tertiary courses and both local as well as international magazine titles are evidence of the culturally and linguistically diverse landscape of each country. Originally trained as a fashion designer in Singapore, Juffri Jeffri’s career trajectory into fashion show production and then visual merchandising shows the unexpected ways in which young graduates may find themselves navigating the possibilities of a fashion career, at times taking them across countries.

Phnom Penh-based Singapore fashion merchandiser Juffri Jeffri speaks to us about taking risks, embracing uncertainty and living in a new city. Juffri has had the exciting chance to witness the Cambodian fashion industry and consumer profile change in the past seven years.
While Southeast Asia has been the manufacturing centre for international brands for decades, the regions’ creative and commercial fashion landscapes are not often the focus of attention. The various fashion tertiary courses and both local as well as international magazine titles are evidence of the culturally and linguistically diverse landscape of each country. Originally trained as a fashion designer in Singapore, Juffri Jeffri’s career trajectory into fashion show production and then visual merchandising shows the unexpected ways in which young graduates may find themselves navigating the possibilities of a fashion career, at times taking them across countries.

Phnom Penh-based Singapore fashion merchandiser Juffri Jeffri speaks to us about taking risks, embracing uncertainty and living in a new city. Juffri has had the exciting chance to witness the Cambodian fashion industry and consumer profile change in the past seven years.

You’ve had a very interesting trajectory since you graduated as a fashion design graduate in 2008 from LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. You’ve been known to wear different hats in the industry since graduating. Can you tell us about how you came to work in Cambodia?
At that time, I was working for Robinsons in Singapore, and my creative director recommended me for the job as he knew I loved to explore new cultures. This was a new role that opened up in Cambodia, and I took it up as a challenge to see what I could contribute and achieve. It was also new territory for me as I did not have experience at a managerial position before this. While I currently only focus on fashion brand PEDRO, I began my career here with a variety of brands that are under M.W. Metropolitan.

You have been working in Cambodia for 7 years now. How have you seen the fashion industry
and consumer behaviour change in these years?

Over the past few years, I have seen the consumer profile change and there are more brands entering the market from fast fashion to high street and luxury brands. This is interesting as I am able to witness the local consumer’s style growth. In addition, our merchandise selection has been increasingly varied and improved year on year to match the changing lifestyles. In my first year, I remember we focused on dressier styles as fashion was mostly consumed for special occasions such as weddings and birthday parties. While Cambodia is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, resort wear was not a big segment and the culture of dressing up for weekend brunch was not common. With more exposure from social media, I have seen the younger Khmer generation tapping into our brands’ global social media pages to adopt trends and style with their own personalities. Additionally, e-commerce platforms like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and Matches fashion began to offer shipping to Cambodia, allowing style mavens to explore the global fashion scene.
You’ve had a very interesting trajectory since you graduated as a fashion design graduate in 2008 from LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. You’ve been known to wear different hats in the industry since graduating. Can you tell us about how you came to work in Cambodia?
At that time, I was working for Robinsons in Singapore, and my creative director recommended me for the job as he knew I loved to explore new cultures. This was a new role that opened up in Cambodia, and I took it up as a challenge to see what I could contribute and achieve. It was also new territory for me as I did not have experience at a managerial position before this. While I currently only focus on fashion brand PEDRO, I began my career here with a variety of brands that are under M.W. Metropolitan.

You have been working in Cambodia for 7 years now. How have you seen the fashion industry
and consumer behaviour change in these years?

Over the past few years, I have seen the consumer profile change and there are more brands entering the market from fast fashion to high street and luxury brands. This is interesting as I am able to witness the local consumer’s style growth. In addition, our merchandise selection has been increasingly varied and improved year on year to match the changing lifestyles. In my first year, I remember we focused on dressier styles as fashion was mostly consumed for special occasions such as weddings and birthday parties. While Cambodia is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, resort wear was not a big segment and the culture of dressing up for weekend brunch was not common. With more exposure from social media, I have seen the younger Khmer generation tapping into our brands’ global social media pages to adopt trends and style with their own personalities. Additionally, e-commerce platforms like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and Matches fashion began to offer shipping to Cambodia, allowing style mavens to explore the global fashion scene.
I think there is still a lot of mystique around what Head of Visual Merchandising entails. Could you tell us what a typical day in your life is like? What are your favorite parts of the job and which are the hardest?
A typical day in my life involves hopping into the Tuk Tuk, and while I am at it, I will browse Instagram for content and style inspiration that could inspire me for my work. Then, I clear off the regular tasks such as replying emails and filling up reports. I am then off to the store where I spend most of the day. Being at the stores is exciting as I get to observe customers’ shopping behavior and sense of style, and in turn inform how I curate the spaces and merchandise.

I also provide training to the store staff, which I think is the hardest part of the job, as visual merchandising is an entirely new concept to them and can be quite elusive. It is not something they are in touch with growing up with. For example, art is not part of a mandatory school syllabus. Many of the staff members are from the provinces of Cambodia, where they might not have been fashion-trained and are not exposed to the global design scene. It takes time for them to be able to relate to terms, styles and looks that I try to portray in my work.

Over the years, it has been great seeing staff who have worked with me use what they have learnt to achieve greater things on their own, not only in visual merchandising, but within the design scene in general as some of them are now graphic designers, fashion coaches and art event curators.
I think there is still a lot of mystique around what Head of Visual Merchandising entails. Could you tell us what a typical day in your life is like? What are your favorite parts of the job and which are the hardest?
A typical day in my life involves hopping into the Tuk Tuk, and while I am at it, I will browse Instagram for content and style inspiration that could inspire me for my work. Then, I clear off the regular tasks such as replying emails and filling up reports. I am then off to the store where I spend most of the day. Being at the stores is exciting as I get to observe customers’ shopping behavior and sense of style, and in turn inform how I curate the spaces and merchandise.

I also provide training to the store staff, which I think is the hardest part of the job, as visual merchandising is an entirely new concept to them and can be quite elusive. It is not something they are in touch with growing up with. For example, art is not part of a mandatory school syllabus. Many of the staff members are from the provinces of Cambodia, where they might not have been fashion-trained and are not exposed to the global design scene. It takes time for them to be able to relate to terms, styles and looks that I try to portray in my work.

Over the years, it has been great seeing staff who have worked with me use what they have learnt to achieve greater things on their own, not only in visual merchandising, but within the design scene in general as some of them are now graphic designers, fashion coaches and art event curators.

“Being at the stores is exciting as I get to observe customers’ shopping behaviour and sense of style, and in turn inform how I curate the spaces and merchandise.”

Product displays at PEDRO. Images courtesy of Juffri Jeffri.

As a creative person, how do you embrace your creativity while working for brands which have their own “personalities”?
With every brand, there are guidelines to follow. But over the years, I have managed to work with my brand principles to explore the creative capabilities of both parties and incorporate my style into the displays that I create. For now, I work exclusively for PEDRO as it expands across Cambodia.

Since your days as a fashion student, you have been known to have a curious and keen eye for style and aesthetics. Have you undergone further training or acquired new skills as you developed in the industry?
Working with established companies with set methods of working, I have had the opportunity to participate in the training they each offered, which helped me to grow my set of skills. Also, the many years of doing fashion styling for various brands coupled with my fine arts and design education and interest, I have developed the ability to visualise the designs and color coordinations, and put together the looks spontaneously.
As a creative person, how do you embrace your creativity while working for brands which have their own “personalities”?
With every brand, there are guidelines to follow. But over the years, I have managed to work with my brand principles to explore the creative capabilities of both parties and incorporate my style into the displays that I create. For now, I work exclusively for PEDRO as it expands across Cambodia.

Since your days as a fashion student, you have been known to have a curious and keen eye for style and aesthetics. Have you undergone further training or acquired new skills as you developed in the industry?
Working with established companies with set methods of working, I have had the opportunity to participate in the training they each offered, which helped me to grow my set of skills. Also, the many years of doing fashion styling for various brands coupled with my fine arts and design education and interest, I have developed the ability to visualise the designs and color coordinations, and put together the looks spontaneously.

Gatoni Boutique. Images courtesy of Juffri Jeffri.

What would the perfect day look like in Phnom Penh for someone interested in fashion, art and design?
While the fashion scene is not big, I am beginning to see more pop-up events, small spaces and even cafes collaborating with local artists to highlight their artisanal skills, most of them mixing the traditional culture with modern aesthetics.

Multi-label boutique Gatoni opened its first duplex store here in Cambodia catering to a modern and tasteful crowd, with merchandise that celebrates and understands how to promote suitable clothing for the warm Cambodian weather. It has a balance of simplicity and elegance. The in-store design is of a soothing color palette, creating a peaceful shopping experience that feels calming. This is a refreshingly new environment for me compared to the shops that we are used to here.

How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your work and the fashion industry in Cambodia?
Things have been a little slower in pace but it has given me time to think. I think it has hit every one of us in different ways but as of now, we are pretty stable here amidst the pandemic. Though there is a decrease in sales, there are people still shopping. We are more mindful with providing styles that are influenced by consumers’ shifting behaviour, by providing better and more versatile selections.

Finally, knowing all you know about how the fashion industry works, I am wondering if you had a different vision for what your career would look like when you were a student? And what advice would you give to fashion students that are graduating now?
As a student, my vision was pretty fuzzy as to what I was going to do after I graduate. I thought of being a graphic designer, fashion designer or even a painter! I tried out various jobs in these fields until I landed an opportunity to work with a fashion house. That is where I found my passion and truly honed my skills. For the graduating class of 2021, I say just immerse yourself in the whole design scene, surround yourself with like-minded people, take up any related opportunities that come along and do not be afraid to try even if it takes years.

This article was first published on FAM on 7 September 2021.
What would the perfect day look like in Phnom Penh for someone interested in fashion, art and design?
While the fashion scene is not big, I am beginning to see more pop-up events, small spaces and even cafes collaborating with local artists to highlight their artisanal skills, most of them mixing the traditional culture with modern aesthetics.

Multi-label boutique Gatoni opened its first duplex store here in Cambodia catering to a modern and tasteful crowd, with merchandise that celebrates and understands how to promote suitable clothing for the warm Cambodian weather. It has a balance of simplicity and elegance. The in-store design is of a soothing color palette, creating a peaceful shopping experience that feels calming. This is a refreshingly new environment for me compared to the shops that we are used to here.

How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your work and the fashion industry in Cambodia?
Things have been a little slower in pace but it has given me time to think. I think it has hit every one of us in different ways but as of now, we are pretty stable here amidst the pandemic. Though there is a decrease in sales, there are people still shopping. We are more mindful with providing styles that are influenced by consumers’ shifting behaviour, by providing better and more versatile selections.

Finally, knowing all you know about how the fashion industry works, I am wondering if you had a different vision for what your career would look like when you were a student? And what advice would you give to fashion students that are graduating now?
As a student, my vision was pretty fuzzy as to what I was going to do after I graduate. I thought of being a graphic designer, fashion designer or even a painter! I tried out various jobs in these fields until I landed an opportunity to work with a fashion house. That is where I found my passion and truly honed my skills. For the graduating class of 2021, I say just immerse yourself in the whole design scene, surround yourself with like-minded people, take up any related opportunities that come along and do not be afraid to try even if it takes years.

This article was first published on FAM on 7 September 2021.

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